MoMA protests destruction of Norway's Picasso murals

The Fisherman on the Y-block. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Officials from New York’s Museum of Modern Art have joined those expressing dismay at plans by the Norwegian authorities to demolish a former government building which boasts a site-specific mural by Picasso.

The brutalist building in Oslo, named Y-blokka for the letter it mimics, was designed by architect Erling Viksjø in 1969 and houses several offices for the Norwegian government. Beginning in the late 1950s Picasso began working on murals for the government quarter, placing five murals in and on buildings in the area, two of which, The Fishermen and The Seagull, decorate Y-blokka. 

In a letter sent to the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, by Martino Stierli and Ann Temkin, and published in Norwegian press, the MoMA chief curator of architecture and design, and chief curator of painting and sculpture, call for the building to be saved.

‘We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the approved demolition of the Y-block governmental building’ they wrote. ‘The demolition of the building complex would not only constitute a significant loss of Norwegian architectural heritage, but it would also render any attempt to salvage or reposition Picasso’s site-specific murals elsewhere unfortunate.’

They join the over 48,000 people who have signed a petition calling for the building to be spared the bulldozers.

Officials began discussing plans to demolish Y-blokka last year, after it (and surrounding buildings) suffered structural damage during a domestic terrorist attack in 2011. On 26 February 2020, minister of local government and modernisation Nikolai Astrup announced that the government intended to begin demolition very soon.

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